Editor’s Letter: The Delicate Balance Between Data and Creativity—the Humanity of It All

Eighth Digital Transformation Playbook shows there’s reason for hope

Creative storytelling is becoming more empathetic and more human.
Adweek

It has been a disheartening few months for anyone paying attention to, and concerned about, consumer privacy. Stories continue to roll out of Facebook about the dubious handling of user data, and GDPR now serves as a constant reminder that all is not well in the digital and data economy that shapes so much of our daily lives.

But as we publish our eighth Digital Transformation Playbook in partnership with Accenture Interactive—focused on the balance between data and creativity—there’s actually a lot to feel hopeful about.

The customer journey, empowered by personal technology, omnichannel choice and increasing customer-centric awareness on the part of brand marketers, hinges on a value exchange. We’re willing to give information about ourselves if we get something in return. To date, that trade-off has favored the collectors of data over consumers.

That, however, is starting to change. Creative storytelling is resetting that value exchange equilibrium by becoming well, more empathetic—more human.

In his opinion piece, Peter Kang, Accenture Interactive’s managing director and brand creative lead, hits that note hard. “Through continued focus on brand purpose, empathy and two-way conversation inside innovation, we elevate everyday experiences and benefit from deeper, more personal engagement,” sums up Kang.

This edition’s Playbook infographic offers up a trove of fascinating stats on how creativity and design thinking are improving the brand-customer relationship. Adweek story desk editor Erik Wander quotes Martha Cotton, group design director at Accenture Interactive’s Fjord Design, as saying design-led marketing means “prioritizing a holistic customer experience over siloed strategies, understanding customers in context and promoting empathy for their needs.” Reinforcing this, research by Adobe and Forrester note companies that foster creativity see a 1.5 times greater market share, and a Design in Tech report found that in 2017 there were 21 acquisitions of creative agencies or designer-founded startups.

Of course data in the service of marketing is a vastly powerful tool that will only become more nuanced and effective with creative guidance, so much so that it can take on an agility and intelligence of its own. Contributor Dan Tynan’s feature dives into this morphing relationship between data and creative so storytelling is fast, smart and non-interruptive.

To approach that ideal, Tynan wryly notes, agency creatives will start to look less like scruffy grad students tossing ideas around a conference table and more like scrums of software developers who are constantly cranking out code, testing it and revising it based on the results. Not as romantic, but probably next-level more effective.

Tynan goes on to quote Aaron Lang, managing director of Heat, on the rise of insight-informed creative. “When you rely more heavily on analytics, you need to become more agile and iterative in your process,” says Lang. “The traditional production process doesn’t work at that speed, so you need to find ways to apply creativity in real time.”

Still, data, and it has to be good data, ultimately only provides a smart gut check for really smart human-inspired ideas based in non-algorithmic customer empathy.

“It is called creative, after all,” Brent Poer, president and executive creative director for Zenith in New York, tells Tynan.

Indeed it is.

This story first appeared in the June 11, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.